It was off to the races for a top Obama administration official earlier this summer — and on the taxpayers’ dime.
Attorney General Eric Holder took a one-day trip to Elmont, N.Y., for the Belmont Stakes. Cost to taxpayers: $14,440.
But the nation’s lead law enforcement officer, who traveled to the Triple Crown race aboard a government jet with his two daughters, two male friends, and two security officers, reimbursed the U.S. Treasury only $955, The Daily Caller reported.
The group traveled June 7 on a government-owned Gulfstream V, which go for about $64 million.
“The attorney general wrote a check payable to the U.S. Treasury in the amount of $955 to cover round trip airfare,” state documents provided to the news organization by the Justice Department under a Freedom of Information Act request.
Hans von Spakovsky, senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, said Holder’s air travel is a misuse of taxpayer dollars. He told The Daily Signal:
This is just another example of Holder wasting taxpayer funds. He obviously had no qualms about misusing the taxpayer – funded perks of his office.
The Office of Management and Budget stipulates that agency officials traveling on government aircraft must reimburse the government “for a wholly personal or political trip.”
The reimbursement amount, or “full coach fare,” is determined by the “fare available to the general public between the day that the travel was planned and the day the travel occurred.”
The Department of Justice declined to name the Holder family members and guests who traveled with the attorney general to New York.
A photo taken by the Reuters news service shows Holder speaking with former jockey Ron Turcotte. The attorney general’s two daughters and two young men can be seen standing behind them.
Von Spakovsky, co-author of the book “Obama’s Enforcer: Eric Holder’s Justice Department,” faulted the attorney general for not taking a commercial flight. He said:
There is no reason even with security concerns that the AG could not take a commercial flight with his security detail — unless the administration has such low confidence in the Transportation Safety Administration that it doesn’t believe TSA can guarantee the safety of the flight. That would be much cheaper.
The Justice Department has not responded to The Daily Signal’s request for comment.
It isn’t the first time Holder has flown on government aircraft for a personal trip. In February 2013, the Government Accountability Office released a report showing the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Gulfstream V jets were being used for “non-mission” flights. From 2007 to 2011, 24 percent of flights by Holder and then-FBI Director Robert Mueller aircraft were categorized as personal.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, criticized Holder and Mueller at the time. He said:
These luxury jets were supposedly needed for counterterrorism, but it turns out that they were used almost two-thirds of the time for jet-setting executive travel instead. Nobody disputes that the attorney general and the FBI director should have access to the secure communications, but, for instance, there’s no reason they can’t take a less expensive mode of transportation, or cut their personal travel.